Big Cut Urged on Hard Cap for King Salmon Bycatch

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council was urged today
to move forward with an analysis of Chinook salmon bycatch, and develop a
problem statement aimed at dramatically reducing the hard cap on these prized
The request came in a letter from the Yukon River Drainage
Fisheries Association, the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, the Association
of Village Council Presidents, the Tanana Chiefs Conference, in Fairbanks and
Kawerak Inc., in Nome.
The council’s summer meeting will be held in Nome June 2-10.
“In light of the declines in Western Alaska Chinook salmon
stocks, and the severe impacts on Western Alaskans as a critical source of
food, income and culture has disappeared, it is imperative that mortality from
bycatch in the pollock fishery is reduced as well,” the group told the NPFMC.
“While the cause of the declines is unclear, in-river users
are making extreme sacrifices and in some areas have had their harvest reduced
to zero. In this situation, literally every Chinook counts, and it is both a
conservation need and a matter of equity to ensure that bycatch is reduced as
well.  The ultimate goal of bycatch
reduction should be zero, and we should be striving toward this goal.”
The group urged the federal fisheries council to consider
two alternatives.
The first would reduce the overall hard cap and performance
standards under the current Amendment 91 structure, reducing the overall hard
cap from 60,000 to 20,000 kings, and the performance standard/cap without
incentive programs from 47,591 to 14,500 fish.

The second alternative sought would provide regulatory
provisions to shorten the pollock season end dates when Chinook salmon rates
increase while pollock catch rates decline in late September and October.